Goat’s Head Stew

by John Wiznuk

When I started with SIVFD I noticed that there was not much team spirit and no one identified with a logo. There was an attractive hand painted Osprey on the doors of the old pumper truck but it did not resonate well and looked a lot like the South Galiano VFD logo. My friend, Janet Comstock, had a poster on the wall of her sewing room at Poppy Hill Farm that was a no smoking sign but made up in an 1890’s style that she got from Fort Steele Historic Site. The main graphic was a Nineteenth Century Babcock chemical fire engine pulled by two spirited horses with four gallant fire fighters on board that I liked at once. It made sense to me as the Class A foam mini-pumper that was our main apparatus was the modern equivalent of the Babcock chemical engine. The graphic is dynamic and easy to indentify with so I borrowed the poster and made a photocopy. I took it to an artist of international reputation, Karen Muntean, Alfred’s partner, and this was in the days before multi font computers and printers made life so easy for graphic designers. She had some old style script Letraset, anyone remember that? She laid out Saturna Island Volunteer Firefighters around the graphic and I began to learn about ordering screen printed T-shirts.

With money from the next pig barbecue after the design was finalized we ordered our first fire fighter T-shirts: it is red with the logo screened in black and white on the front, I still have mine in good shape.

This was classy and well received but I still felt dissatisfied. It is a distinctive logo but does not really have anything to do with Saturna Island and that was what I was looking for. Somehow the idea of goats stuck in my head. Saturna Island is well known for its tribes of feral goats. They were brought here for a dairy herd, later abandoned and adapted to the Mediterranean like climate of the Gulf Islands. In spite of hunting and attacks by eagles and ravens on the new born kids they maintain their numbers: increasing or decreasing as the vagaries of life dictate.

Goats are a totemic animal in many cultures. Thor, Norse mythic god of thunder and lightning, kept huge, fierce Billy goats to pull his battle chariot and thunder was supposedly the noise of their hooves and the iron shod chariot wheels on the roof of the heavens as they raced along with Thor on board throwing bolts of fire from the sky. Exciting stuff! Some British Army regiments have a goat as their mascot and the famous Royal Twenty-Second Regiment of Canada, the Van Doos, have a white Himalayan goat mascot that marches on parade with them. The Saturna goats are survivors: adaptable, nimble, quick, with homely good looks and no pretence. The Campbell family had, at one time, a pet Billy-goat named Woden who played a game with people; you would try to place the sole of your boot on his forehead and he would try to catch your boot with his horns and throw you down, all in good fun. It was Woden that became the “poster goat” for SIVFD.   

But, the challenge was, how to translate a photograph of an old Billy goat into a fire department emblem? I was working as the part-time site manager of the Saturna Island recycling depot at that time and one day when a bunch of used up story books came in from the island school the answer presented itself to me. Among them was a colouring book by the British author Richard Scary about farm animals that were drawn as the farmers and citizens of an English village. And there was a farmer goat with a hat on his head similar to a fire fighter’s helmet with the horns sticking out: just what I was looking for. I ripped out the page and in time took it to the ever patient Karen Muntean who rendered it into the Saturna Island Volunteer Fire Department badge that we have today: our Goat of Arms.

Excerpt from a volunteer firefighter’s memoir by John Wiznuk